Saves the Day vocalist/guitarist Chris Conley may only be a thirty-something, but he’s already had a 14-year career some musicians can only dream of. With 10 albums, including popular B-side and acoustic recordings, a side project with Say Anything’s Max Bemis, and legions of adoring fans, Conley is proof that the early guitarist catches the worm. He sat down recently with Consequence of Sound to discuss finishing the band’s forthcoming album Daybreak, honest songwriting, lyrical dismemberment, and philosophy.
You guys have the new album coming out this fall, Daybreak. This is the last one in that trilogy of albums that you were doing, which ended up being fairly spread out. Was that intentional?
No, that was supposed to be sort of a quicker project, and the albums were supposed to come out in three consecutive years. So, the first two albums came out a year apart from each other, and then in 2008 when we started work on Daybreak, our guitar player at the time was starting to figure out he didn’t really want to be touring anymore, and so we decided to part ways in 2008. So I found a new guitar player, and we had to really get the band organized as a unit before we could record an album. We put off the record for 2008 so that we could do some touring together and become a solid group on the road before we went into the studio. In 2009, we went into the studio to record Daybreak, and in the middle of the recording, our drummer and bass player got word from one of their other bands that they had a world tour booked, and they were gonna be whisked away for quite some time. So, we decided to part ways so that I could have a working band and I could keep touring even though those guys have other priorities.
I just made the decision that I wanted Daybreak to be played by people who were going to bring it on the road and support it on tour, so I decided to wait until we had another drummer and bass player and do the record again. We were two-thirds of the way done with Daybreak last summer when we decided to wait and re-track everything. By the time we got another drummer and bass player, of course we needed to do more touring to get tight as a band, and we didn’t get to record until 2010. So, that’s why it took so long—it was merely logistical.
So the album was written earlier, but it wasn’t recorded until more recently?
I had every song written– except for two– in 2008, and in early 2009, I finished the last two. The album’s been written for some time, but we just didn’t have the right opportunity to record it in earnest.
Do you feel like the album developed more, given the amount of time that had passed, or do you feel like you stayed true to what you had originally written?
The theme is definitely true to itself. None of the lyrical ideas changed. The songs, all of the compositions stayed the same, but I do think in some of the elements of instrumentation…there were really great features brought out in the songs, with the help of Arun Bali and Rodrigo Palma, our guitarist and bassist respectively. Their talents were a gift in the recording process. They constantly surprised me with interesting ways to approach different parts of the songs, and it was a treat for me, because I got to be surprised by things that they would try, and that was exciting. So, the songs did have new life breathed into them when Rodrigo and Arun joined, so that was… nice. It felt fresh again.
You started in music at such a young age. You’re still a young man and a lot of people your age are just making it big, when you’ve got a 15-year career. What kind of perspective does that give you on the industry?
You know, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to do it for so long. And I think my perspective has changed through the years. But now that I’m older and Saves the Day has been around for a solid 14 years, I realize that it’s a lot less serious than you think it is when you’re young. Each album is just an album, each show is just a show, each tour is just a tour, and you’re playing music and you’re having fun. People like it or they don’t, and that’s it. It’s not life or death. And that helped me, because when I was younger, I wanted each album to do well and I wanted people to like it. I’m sure every musician feels that way. They just want people to hear their songs—and more it’s just for me. I just like doing it. And I wouldn’t stop, even if people didn’t want to hear it. I feel more calm doing it. I enjoy it a lot more, feeling detached like that.
That’s an interesting perspective, and I was going to ask because you seem very—kind of very zen, I guess, when you guys are in concert. I’ve seen you play a number of times, and you just seem so chill, and really happy about it. Is it hard to maintain that attitude in the music business, where a lot of people don’t really have that same approach to it?
Well, I mean, I don’t let other people’s attitudes sway me. If there are people in my band who can’t enjoy themselves, that becomes difficult. But if other bands are in it just for the success, that’s okay—that’s just how they are. I guess I’ve just been given this disposition sort of by life experience. I enjoy it, and I’ve got a supportive family and loyal fans, and I feel like I’ve kind of lucked out. It hasn’t been hard to maintain that perspective. The toughest thing really is that there’s not a whole lot of money in music, and when there’s not a lot of money, it creates tension and stress in people’s lives. And that’s the same story that everybody else in the world is telling. It’s not different from normal existence, and just like anyone else, you’ve gotta try to keep your head above the waves, even when life isn’t bringing up roses.